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Ep. 1: Old Friends, Faux Heidi, And 99 Cent Store Dresses

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It's here! Project Runway All Stars was filmed last summer at the same time as Season Nine of Project Runway. We've been waiting expectantly for its debut ever since. Well, the premiere of the series has finally arrived, and happily, it was worth the wait. This season looks like it's going to be a fun, albeit not necessarily surprising, ride.

Things kick off with a reintroduction of all thirteen returning designers as they arrive at Limelight Marketplace. Limelight was initially built as a church, then became a nightclub, and now is an unsuccessful shopping center. It's empty when the designers arrive. We're not sure if that's because they've cleared the place out for the taping or it's just a regular business day.

At Limelight we meet our new host, Angela Lindvall, a.k.a. "Faux Heidi." Angela is a tall blonde model who uses many of Heidi Klum's familiar Runway taglines, like, "One day you're in and the next you're out." The main differences between Lindvall's presentation and the Teutonic Klum's are that the American-born Lindvall doesn't say "auf Wiedersehen" and seems to have less of a facility for English.

After meeting our new judges, Marchesa designer Georgina Chapman and designer/celebrity Isaac Mizrahi, the All Stars must present a mini fashion show. Each designer shows a recent creation to illustrate how far they've come since their season. Unfortunately, some of them haven't come very far, and a few seem to have backtracked. Jerell's, Mila's and Kenley's garments are all worse than what they showed in their seasons. Austin's and Gordana's designs are interesting. Elisa's is really interesting, but, not surprisingly for her, quite weird. April's is flattering, but surprisingly toned down. Anthony's is almost trashy, but not quite. Michael's is pretty, but unmemorable. Rami's is mind blowingly brilliant, and we love Mondo's and want to buy it. And those are all the designs we see. Count them. Notice that they don't add up to thirteen. Yes, we're just a few minutes into the season and the producers have already edited out designs by Kara Janx and Sweet P. Since Kara is one of the relatively few designers in the history of the show whose work has actually had some national commercial success, we find this choice bewildering.

Next it's time for this episode's challenge. We learn it's the ever popular unconventional materials challenge, or, as Faux Heidi incorrectly calls it, "The unconventional challenge." This time around, the designers each get $100 to spend on items at a 99 Cent Store that they'll then use to create looks inspired by their earlier runway designs. The All Stars stock up on odd materials like umbrellas, bathmats and even Brillo pads. Both Michael and April buy black and white mops (and eventually both make very similar, albeit beautiful dresses).

Back in the workroom, the designers meet their mentor for the season, the anti-Tim Gunn, Marie Claire's editor-in-chief, Joanna Coles. While the British Joanna will never be as cuddly as Tim, she has a history as an outspoken, witty and insightful Project Runway guest judge, and thus could prove very helpful to the designers—if she doesn't intimidate the crap out of them first.

Our judges this week are the previously mentioned Georgina Chapman and Isaac Mizrahi. Much to our surprise Georgina gets the lead "Michael Kors Chair." Did we happen to mention the talented Georgina is also Mrs. Harvey Weinstein? Joining Isaac and the Executive Producer's wife as our guest judge, is Senior VP and Fashion Director of Neiman Marcus, the dashing Ken Downing. Ken gives decent critiques but is mainly there because one of this season's prizes is the opportunity for the winner to have their own boutique in select Neiman Marcus stores and online. This means we'll all be able to buy the winner's clothing—we just won't all be able to afford them.

Our top three designers for this week are Jerell, whose handkerchief dress is gorgeous—much better than the design it was inspired by; Mondo, who takes black plastic bags, electrical tape and binders and uses them to create a little black dress which we'd love to wear; and Rami, who combines cheap plaid shopping bags and an umbrella to construct an architectural dress which literally makes us gasp at it comes down the runway. Rami is rightfully named this week's winner. He says he is delighted that he world will now see that he doesn't just use draping in all his designs.

Our bottom three for the week are Gordana, whose white streamer outfit isn't too bad, just too busy; Sweet P, whose dress of colorful towels really is too bad, and Elisa, whose weird ensemble looks like a paper version of her earlier weird ensemble. Sadly, the wacky Elisa goes home. Our choice would have been Sweet P.

And now, for the first time ever, our Top Ten Moments of Project Runway All Stars Greatness...

10. When the designers arrive at their suite at the Flatotel, they are shown a film of a welcoming message from Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti. We suspect this is the closest Valentino will ever come to entering a Flatotel.

9. Mila says, "My work is fashion forward, current, contemporary and accessible," but leaves out "unflattering."

8. Anthony explains, "Elisa is very different—and the reason I'm going to give her a pass on being different is because I had a grandmother who was committed to the crazy house." Why doesn’t this man have his own television series yet?

7. Austin wears a do-rag in the workroom. We've never seen a do-rag over feathered blonde hair before—unless you count the ones that top Brett Michaels' wigs.

6. After Joanna Coles warns Elisa not to spit on her, Elisa counters that people pay her to spit on her designs. Elisa, there are a number of body fluids which people will pay to receive, but not from a seamstress.

5. Michael is terrified that April will kick his ass with her mop dress. Good to see that Michael hasn't lost his lack of self confidence.

4. On the runway, Faux Heidi tells Sweet P, "You need to not second guess yourself." Based on what we were shown, she didn't, but probably should have.

3. The prizes are qualified: boutiques will be at "Select" Neiman Marcus stores and the entire prize package is worth "Close to" half a million dollars. On a similar note, these All Stars are "Project Runway" All Stars.

2. Michael says his model made him "question my sexuality." This comes from an out gay man with an ex wife and two kids.

1. The first line of the whole show and season includes Mondo saying, "I'm going to win." After all the controversy and fan anger over his previous loss, we're wondering if this is some heavy-handed foreshadowing.

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